Life was tough was young Jadeja and Naina while growing up. Their father, an occasional security guard, didn’t have a regular income but the kids were afraid of him right from their childhood. Their mother took care of the family. They lived in a one-room employee flat allotted for their mother for being a nurse in a Government hospital. Whatever their father brought from his job went to the savings but it was never enough to run the family. The family did suffer to make ends meet.
Jadeja, on the other hand, fell in love with the game when he was very young. He was so into the game that there were times he would sleep-talk about fielding placements. He used to sleep-walk as well. Oh, that’s for later.
There were days when used to play with boys who were older than him and they would bully him and would rarely give him the opportunity to bat. There were days when young Jadeja would cry during nights.
After finding this out one day, the family decided to take him to a coaching class. Welcome, Mahendrasinh Chauhan.
Mahendrasinh Chauhan was a policeman but also a local cricketer who ran “Cricket Bangalow”. It wasn’t easy to get into the place. Chauhan had strict rules and was so much into discipline. He would even make the parents sign a contract that they shouldn’t interfere in his way of teaching which includes beating and slaps.
While he had different ways of teaching the students, fielding was one thing he wanted his students to concentrate more. The kids would practice fielding on tough outfields where they would be stones and difficult pathways. They would usually damage their knee or elbow and most of the days they would return home, bleeding. There is one of the main reasons why Jadeja is super successful when it comes to that area.
Jadeja was one of the naughtiest kids while growing up and of course, had Chauhan kept count, Jadeja would have got the more number of slaps from him than anyone else. Also, it took a tight slap from Chauhan to make Jadeja stop the sleep-walking.
A seam bowler first, it was Chauhan who turned Jadeja into a spinner and there was a time where he went on to pick five wickets right after getting a tight slap from Chauhan. Jadeja was asked to open the bowling in two practice matches but he was careless and went for runs. It took a tight slap from Chauhan to get him back to the groove and in the next match he went on to pick five wickets.
2005-2006 was supposed to be his best his year. He was doing well and everything was going fine. The year turned unforgettable to him, his mother passed away. She had a kitchen accident and later, died of the same. Jadeja was way too close to his mother and her death made him almost quit the game. Naina played a major role in getting him back on the field. She took care of the expenses at home and fifteen days after his mother’s death, Jadeja got into Under-19 team and played alongside some of the familiar names including Pujara and Rohit. Jadeja ended up picking four wickets and also had 34 runs to his name. India were the runners-up and Pujara won the player of the series that year.
Two years later, he became the deputy to Virat Kohli in the 2008 under-19 world cup which India won. Jadeja had 10 wickets in the tournament.
IPL was a turning point in many cricketers’ career and Jadeja was one of them. Rajasthan Royals and Shane Warne found a rockstar in Jadeja. Jadeja wasn’t a full-flourish batter then. He was a fielder first, bowler second and then a batter even though he was scoring runs now and then.
Dhoni has this habit of believing in people and making them do unthinkable stuff, things other captains don’t normally do. For example, the final over of the 2007 T20 World Cup final. Two years later, he did take another risk, which was to promote Jadeja up the order in a chase against England. India needed 154. Jadeja was brutally tested that day. He flunked. He made 24 from 35 deliveries with one four to his name. In the end, India went on to lose that match by 4 runs. Dhoni, as usual, went on to defend his decision and said that “the team didn’t bat well”.
Jadeja became the villain that day. People called him names and it wasn’t an easy sight for a youngster. He kept trying hard for the next few years. However, in the next year, he made things worse for himself and was banned from IPL for a year.
That year, he hardly left his room and the family made sure not to watch IPL in front of him. Right after that incident, in the next year, CSK became his new home. Dhoni became his king. He would do whatever Dhoni says him to do. He was a perfect soldier and nobody backed him as much as Dhoni did. He did have good reports in ODIs to make Dhoni believe in him.
November 8, 2009. India batted first against Australia and was reduced to 27 for 5. While Dhoni and Jadeja took their time in the middle and added a few runs. Dhoni then got out for 24. Jadeja then joined hands with Praveen Kumar and the duo dragged India to 170 that day. Jadeja had 57 and Praveen Kumar had 54.
September 9, 2011. India were reduced to 65 for 5 by some good bowling by England. Dhoni and Jadeja once again joined hands to stitch a partnership. Jadeja sailed the wrecked Indian boat to a decent island, scored 78 runs that day and India made 234. Though England won the match by D/L Method, Jadeja won the player of the match for his 78 and 2 wickets.
(Leaving this space blank because everyone knows what happened in the semi-final against New Zealand in the recently concluded World Cup).
Somewhere in between, he became the first Indian player to score three triple tons in first-class cricket. He achieved the feat when he was just 23. Still, it took him years to make (a lot of cricket fans) trust his batting abilities.
Jadeja usually doesn’t spin the ball much but varies his speed based on the condition. More than the spin, the fear of the spin usually makes the batter lose wickets against him. He is better at playing the mind games that way.
Though Jadeja didn’t have much while growing up, he always dreamt of being a royal. The 2012 contract made things happen for him. He bought horses, a farm and years later, he is living the life he always wanted.
When Warne first saw Jadeja, he identified the rockstar in him and today, he should be and will be proud of how far he has come.